School principals opt for retirement as burnout bites


“A lot [of principals] are gone, there is no doubt about that,” she said.

The issues are echoed in the recent Australia Catholic University Head Teachers’ 2021 Occupational Health and Wellbeing Survey, which surveyed 2,590 headteachers and found that head teachers at across Australia faced the highest burnout rates in a decade and frequently experienced physical abuse and threats.

The survey found that 30.1% of Victorian head teachers have been threatened with violence, compared to 7.8% of the general population and 21.3% have experienced physical violence. Nationally, 29% were deemed “at risk” for mental health and self-harm. The survey found that managers and assistant managers worked an average of 55 to 60 hours of work per week.


Mark Grant, chief executive of the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, said principals were reporting double work hours due to extra bureaucracy and administration.

“What I’m hearing is that whatever teacher shortage has been in the last year or two, it quickly becomes a principal shortage, a leadership shortage,” he said.

He said the recently launched Victorian Academy of Teaching and Leadership Education by the state government was a good step to encourage teachers to gain expertise and pursue pathways into school leadership.

“But without addressing the bureaucracy, the administrative burden, the violence and abuse and the heavy expectations of schools, it’s almost like you’re clapping with one hand,” he said.


The Department of Education said there had been a decline in principal attrition rates since the start of the pandemic and an increase in teacher enrollment since June 30, 2021.

But Ms. King said that was not what they were hearing.

“There is a lag in their data, let me tell you. Certainly, this is not what we see. What we see contradicts that,” she said.

According to the president of the Victorian Principal Association, Andrew Dalgleish, a number of principals retired because they were burnt out.

“It’s a general comment from all educators,” he said.

A principal, commenting on the condition of anonymity, recently brought forward her retirement by more than a year because she felt she was not getting the Department of Education support she needed in the role of taxation. She said that regarding COVID-19, there was a delay in getting information from the department.

“When there is a crisis, a death in the community, whenever something like that happens; when fires happen, when floods happen, people go to schools. That’s where they congregate, that’s where they want support and it’s all down to the director,” she said. “It’s the same with COVID.”

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